Two players the Kansas City Chiefs selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft have been named to the Pro Football Writers of America All Rookie Team: safety Juan Thornhill — selected 63rd overall — and wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who was selected 56th.
Just as in his selection to the Pro Bowl, Hardman received the PFWA honor as a return specialist — specifically as a kick returner — rather than as a wide receiver.
The 2019 PFWA All-Rookie Team and rookie honors: pic.twitter.com/mmHVHWWQFx— Pro Football Writers (@PFWAwriters) January 14, 2020
Over four seasons playing safety at Virginia, Thornhill appeared in 38 games, amassing 208 tackles (12.5 for loss, 141 solo) along with 1.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, a forced fumble and 26 passes defensed.
Playing alongside veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu, Thornhill is widely considered a big factor in the the improvement of the Chiefs secondary in 2019, starting every game and collecting 57 tackles (41 solo), three interceptions (one for a touchdown) and five passes defensed.
Unfortunately, Thornhill tore an ACL in the season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers and was placed on injured reserve. The Chiefs are hopeful that Thornhill will return in time for the 2020 season.
In two seasons as a wide receiver with the Georgia Bulldogs, the speedy Hardman caught 60 passes for 961 yards — averaging 16 yards a catch — and scoring 11 touchdowns. After starting his college career as a fullback, as a wideout he was also used occasionally as a rusher, gaining 97 yards (and scoring a pair of touchdowns) on just 13 carries.
He declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season.
With the Chiefs, Hardman played in every game this season — starting five of them at wide receiver. During the regular season, he gained 538 yards (and scored six touchdowns) on 26 receptions, averaging 20.7 yards per catch.
But in his rookie campaign, his main use has been as a kick returner, averaging 26.1 yards on 27 kickoff returns and 9.3 yards on 18 punt returns.
As a returner, he saved the best for last: scoring a touchdown on a 104-yard kickoff return during the season’s final game — the NFL’s longest touchdown play in 2019. Then against the Houston Texans this past Sunday — with the Chiefs facing a 24-0 deficit — he sparked his team with a 58-yard kickoff return that set up the Chiefs’ first score in a 51-7 comeback that sent Kansas City to this weekend’s AFC Championship.